Fort Point Beer Company Expands Distribution Statewide in California

San Francisco’s Fort Point Beer Company has signed with eight wholesalers in California, expanding the craft brewery’s distribution footprint statewide.

“For six years, Fort Point has pretty much been sold in nine counties around the Bay Area with a couple of things being sold here and there outside of that,” Fort Point co-founder and CEO Justin Catalana told Brewbound. “But we just flipped the switch to sell through the rest of California.”

Between May and early October, Fort Point, which self-distributes its offerings in the Bay Area, has struck several distribution deals. Those include a mix of independent, craft-centric wholesalers, as well as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors houses. Fort Point’s network now includes:

  • Scout Distribution in San Diego County
  • CoHop Beverage Company in Riverside and San Bernardino counties
  • Beauchamp Distributing in Los Angeles County
  • Classic Distributing in Los Angeles County, except for the Beauchamp footprint
  • Pacific Beverage Company in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties
  • Markstein Beverage of Sacramento in Solano, Placer, Nevada, Sacramento, El Dorado, Yolo, Yuba, Sutter, Butte, Napa, Alpine, Sierra and Plumas counties.
  • Morris Distributing in Lake and Mendocino counties
  • Humboldt Distributing in Humboldt County

Although Fort Point’s brand is now sold statewide in California, Catalana said there are no plans to go beyond the Golden State’s borders. For him, there’s plenty of runway for growth in-state for a production-focused brewery.

“What we’re trying to do is become the next Bay Area production-focused, more institutionalized brewery,” he said. “We feel like we’re well on the pathway to doing that.”

Scout Distribution co-founder Josh Landan told Brewbound that he was first drawn to Fort Point’s brand five years ago and has remained a fan of the company.

“I think they have the potential to be one of the rare brands that succeeds in San Diego that is not a local brewery,” he said.

According to Catalana, Fort Point is on pace to grow about 30%, to around 40,000 barrels, by the end of 2019. Currently, about 90% of Fort Point’s beer is sold in the Bay Area, which Catalana said he believes makes Fort Point among the most densely distributed craft beer brands in the U.S.

In fact, Catalana estimated that 80% of the company’s beer is currently sold through its own distribution arm, which ships beer to 2,500 unique accounts every 30 days. However, that’s likely to change with the company’s distribution expansion.

Driving much of Fort Point’s growth is KSA, a kölsch-style beer that accounts for about 45% of the company’s sales. Catalana said the goal is to be the “go-to craft beer” in the San Francisco market and fill the spot Anchor Brewing once held.

Although Fort Point ranks as the 26th top selling brand in California, the company’s beer is currently distributed in only 9% of the stores tracked by market research firm IRI in the state, Catalana said.

“We’ve barely scratched the amount of IRI participating stores that we’re in, but we’re still decently high on the list from a rankings standpoint,” he said.

Opening the rest of the state and opportunities for the sales in national accounts such as Total Wine, Vons, Trader Joe’s and Safeway, among others, has Catalana eyeing “significant growth” in 2020 and beyond. Catalana is projecting Fort Point’s production to grow to about 50,000 barrels of beer in 2020, which he called “a safe estimate.”

The expansion of Fort Point’s distribution reach is just part of the company’s goal of becoming an institution in the Bay Area.

For Fort Point, the goal is to build and maintain trust with its customers, Catalana said. Building that trust isn’t just through the liquid but also the experiences it provides consumers and the community it fosters in the neighborhoods where it operates.

Last week, Fort Point opened its long-awaited taproom on Valencia Street in San Francisco, which Catalana said is part of a plan to “activate” parts of California, primarily in the Bay Area, with taprooms.

In addition to the Valencia location, Fort Point plans to open an Oakland taproom later this year and another Bay Area spot in a yet-to-be-determined locale, Catalana said. Those operations will be in addition to Fort Point’s existing taproom at San Francisco’s Ferry Building marketplace, as well as offshoots Mill Valley Beerworks and Black Sands Brewery.

Fort Point, which received a $3 million capital infusion from investment firm Circle Up in January, plans to fund brewery infrastructure and additional taprooms, including a possible location in Southern California, with additional investment, which Catalana said would likely come from “more traditional VC [venture capital] firms.”

“We have a relatively small amount of debt,” he said. “We’ve kind of sold equity to get where we are today. Most of our investors are just heavily interested in us being the San Francisco brewery.”

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